Jones helping Milligan close AAC tennis gap

In a league dominated by King and Virginia Intermont, the Milligan College men's tennis team might have gone a long way in closing the gap on Wednesday in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
   On one of Milligan College's brightest days for tennis in a long time, current Science Hill standout Tom Jones signed a letter of intent to play for the 'Buffs yesterday.
   Jones has played No. 1 singles and doubles for the 'Toppers the last two seasons, and is a three-time All-State performer.
   Last spring, Jones led Science Hill to the TSSAA Class AAA state team championship.
   "Tom is a top-caliber player, and is going to have an immediate impact on our program," Milligan men's tennis coach Rich Aubrey. "Tom has been very successful individually. He's been part of a very successful team. Our desire is that he will bring some of that success with him and bring some of that to Milligan."
   Considering that Milligan's program has been down in recent years, this might be considered a steal for the 'Buffs.
   "He definitely had some other opportunities," Aubrey said. "His family has some Milligan connections. His mom and dad are Milligan grads. There was also a church connection. We started talking to Tom last year. He came and watched us play, and he's been over to visit us several times. We've tried to stay in touch with him."
   Aubrey thinks he's not only getting a tennis player that is going to have instant success, but also a fine young man.
   "I just really feel like in addition to being an asset to our tennis program, that he is going to be an asset to our campus," he said. "He's a very good student, and a quality person. I have felt all along that he would be a match for Milligan.
   As for his tennis, Aubrey thinks he has signed a player that will "It's fairly likely that he will come in and play No. 1," he said.
   "He's had a great high school career, and from what I see of him, he continues to get better. He seems to me like he gets stronger all the time.
   He's hitting the ball harder now than he was a year or so ago. He continues to add weapons. I think it's fairly likely that he will come in and play No. 1.
   With Jones bringing lofty credentials to Milligan College, Aubrey hopes this is the start of better days to come for Buffalo tennis.
   "That's our goal," Aubrey said. "I've always believed that the way to make a tennis team better is at the top. If you add a new No. 1, then somebody who played No. 1 before you who has played No. 1 is all of a sudden playing No. 2, and he is going to be a better No. 2 player than No. 1. And somebody that was playing No. 2 in the past is going to be better at No. 3.
   It just makes your whole team stronger and makes you deeper. I think that's the place to start."
   NOTE: A preview of this year's men's and women's tennis teams at Milligan can be found in an upcoming edition of the Elizabethton Star.